April 24, 2016

Our Last Visit to the Minnesota Zoo in 2016

Our Last Visit to the Minnesota Zoo in 2016
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for April 24, 2016

It was Sunny's 11th birthday so that means wear a hat, pose for a picture, and get a free birthday muffin!  He's been down this road before.

On Friday night, we went out for dinner and some fun with our old buddies, Jason and Jen.  It was disco night at the casino so we had to get down there and have some Boogie Fever.

On Saturday morning, we picked up Grandma Linda for our final Minnesota Zoo visit of 2016.  Now theoretically it's possible we'll go there again this year, but I highly doubt it.  We're letting our membership expire and I'm not sure when any of us will want to go again badly enough to renew it.  We will just have to see who gets the zoo desire first.

The Minnesota Zoo is home to the 71st Whaling Wall painted by artist Robert Wyland.

According to Wikipedia, Mr Wyland painted his first whaling wall in 1981 and this one was painted in 1997.  His 100th whaling wall was painted in 2008 in Beijing for the Olympics.  I've always been a fan of Robert Wyland's work so it's cool seeing one of his murals at our local zoo.

Next to the Whaling Wall is a large pond where the zoo is attempting to get Trumpeter Swans to be reintroduced in Minnesota.  Apparently they were hunted out of existence in the state back in the 1880's and the zoo would like to fix that.  The way these two were following each other around all day, I'm guessing they're getting ready to do their part to help bring back some population.

We surprised the moose when walking by.  At least I assumed we surprised him because he didn't have his big ole rack of horns on yet for our visit.

I don't think these ducks were an official part of the zoo exhibits so we clapped our hands and screamed at them to get out of the zoo so they wouldn't steal any of the official zoo animal's thunder.

Grandma Linda likes the animals.  And we like Grandma Linda so it was a pretty good day at the zoo.

I like turtles.

I always get camels and dromedaries mixed up and which has one hump and which has two.  The sign says these were camels and as far as I could tell they had two humps.  So that cleared up hump questions for the day.

I noticed someone needs to clean up the donkey yard.  That's gotta be a pretty big pooper scooper.

This prairie dog was working on something with a lot of intensity.  I like to think it was a really tiny Rubik's Cube.

I couldn't tell if the leopard was feeling really lazy or was contemplating tearing somebody apart right outside his cage.  I'm just not very good at reading leopards yet.

I liked the pigs until somebody told me they were wild boars.  I don't know why they get called that because they seemed pretty exciting to me.

The bears seemed to all still be hibernating.  Or maybe they were just sleeping.  It's hard for me to tell the difference.

On Saturday night, we went to our friends, the Zitzewitzes, to hang out with them and the Brown family.  I'm not being racist or anything.  That's just their last name.

 Troy likes to bring as much meat as he can possibly carry whenever he goes anywhere.

Karl is a huge fan of Troy's meat and takes really good care of it until it's time to share it with the rest of us.

That is some good looking meat.

We all had a pretty happy night enjoying the meat and a bunch of other good food on a stick. Good times with good friends.

April 17, 2016

Springtime in Minnesota 2016

Springtime in Minnesota 2016
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for April 17, 2016

On Tuesday night we went to see the movie Criminal with our friends, Guy and Jeanine Perera.  It was an interesting movie although kind of weird to see Kevin Costner playing a psychopath.  I actually enjoyed the movie more than I thought I would, but would probably recommend waiting for it to come to Redbox or Netflix before watching.  Not worth $100 to see it in the theater.

This weekend brought Springtime to Minnesota.  The temperatures were in the eighties and it actually felt a bit hot going outside!  We were so due for this weather and it just felt great to experience it.

On Thursday night, we took the dogs to the dog park because that's pretty much what we do when we want to get outside.

On Friday night we had a family dinner at the Outback because Steak and Lobster is back!  Plus, the Bloomin' Onions are just too good to pass up.

On Friday night, we went to Savvi Formalwear to rent some tuxes for the boys.  They have plans on going to prom with a group of friends so we needed to get them some threads.

The staff at Savvi Formalwear was awesome.  We worked with Courtney, Jennifer, and Weston who told us just the right things to rent.  I highly recommend anyone in Prior Lake or the surrounding area to check them out and rent a tux from them if you need one.  You can even use our code # 18655 and get $50 off your rental.  Which is nice.

On Saturday, we took the dogs swimming because Sunny is extremely annoyed with us because we hardly ever do this now that we have Blue.  It's just a lot more complicated to bring two dogs down to the lake especially one that is still just a little bit out of control for our tastes.

We had a little bit of drama while we were down there.  Blue is still learning to swim while Sunny is an 11 year veteran of navigating Prior Lake.  Blue has only gone in the water from the beach and hasn't ever jumped from the end of the dock like Sunny likes to do.  Well, Luke wanted to get a video of Sunny jumping in the lake so Avery threw the ball for him while he sat at the end of the dock with his camera.  We were all surprised when Blue followed Sunny and jumped in the water after him.  The problems started when Blue couldn't figure out to swim back to shore.  Luke stopped taping immediately to check on Blue and started yelling for me to come help him.  Sunny swam to shore like he normally does, but Blue thought he had to climb back on the dock for some reason.  I came down to the end of the dock to see the dog paddling around in a panic hitting the dock with his paws and not moving anywhere else.  I reached in and tried to pull him to the side of the dock so he'd swim to shore, but he wasn't having it.  I then tried to lift him out by the collar, but couldn't do it.  Eventually Avery and a neighbor came down and we all lifted him out of the water and he was just fine, but I'm guessing he might not jump off the dock again for awhile.  Here's the video Luke shot:      

On Sunday, the boys had to interview someone who lived through the sixties so they asked Grandma Linda to come over.  I didn't sit through them talking, but I heard a lot of laughing coming out of the room.  Apparently she shared more stories from her entire life and didn't stick with just the decade of the sixties.  Luke came out of the room when it was over filled with excitement.  He said "Did you know Grandma killed Hitler?  We are totally getting an A on this project!"

First Robotics FRC Regional Tournament 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota

These are a few video clips we took at First Robotics FRC Regional Tournament 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Our kids are on the Prior Lake high school team #2169 KING-TeC so this video primarily focuses on that robot. We had a surprise appearance from First Robotics Founder Dean Kamen so there's some of his speech included in this video as well.

April 10, 2016

First Robotics Minnesota North Star FRC Regional 2016

First Robotics Minnesota North Star FRC Regional 2016
Todd Swank's Diary Update for April 10, 2016

I'm in Toastmasters at Oracle and we held a Speechathon this week which I was honored to Host.  We had 9 different speakers and a crowd of about 30 people watching them present on a wide variety of topics.  I think it turned out great!

My buddy, Orlando, did his first speech at the event which is called his Ice Breaker.  It was great hearing about Orlando's life.  He grew up in Chicago so he's a Bears Fan, but other than that he's a really good guy!

On Friday and Saturday, we spent the day at Marriucci Arena in downtown Minneapolis for the First Robotics Minnesota North Star FRC Regional 2016.  We were ready for some hot robot on robot action.

We were there to support Prior Lake Robotics high school FRC team #2169 KING TeC.  They had performed once already in Peoria, Illinois and this was another chance to try to again earn a berth at the World Championships in St. Louis.

Our boys spend most of their time in the stands doing scouting for strategic purposes.  There's 60 different robots in the competition so it's good to know what each of them is capable of doing for later in the tournament when teams pick partners for alliances.

Avery is also involved in the programming of the robot which can be a high pressure intense role especially when the robot isn't doing what the team wants it to do.  

I'm always amazed at the feats of design and engineering these kids pull off every year.  They have a kick-off event in January where they learn the rules of the new game they will play this year, then they have 6 weeks to design and build a competitive robot.  This year's robot was very fast, could jump over and navigate some rough terrain, pick up and shoot balls in various goals, and for this tournament they created a pulley type device that allowed the robot to pull itself up in the air at the end of the match.  Pretty impressive stuff!

While the kids put themselves through a bunch of pressure filled situations, we parents get to sit back, relax and just watch.  Which is nice!

There's a bunch of really cool parents involved in the program and sitting in the stands for 8 hours a day gives us plenty of chances to get to know one another!!

We went to lunch at a local hot spot called Stubs and Herbs.  It's my kind of place.

Pat and Shelley Hines have been with the program for nearly a decade right now.  Their kids have graduated from high school a few years ago, but they are nice enough to stick around and help run the program.  Which is lucky for us because I don't know what the heck we would do without them!

We were pleasantly surprised on Friday when we had a surprise appearance from the founder of First Robotics as well as the inventor of the Segway, Dean Kamen.

I'm not sure if Dean Kamen is mobbed on the streets when he walks around in public, but at a First Robotics competition he's ranked up there somewhere between a Rock Star and a Kardashian.

Several members of the KING TeC team stalked him long enough to get autographs and photos with him.

Our friend, Jackson Walters, was honored at the event by being named one of Prior Lake's First Dean's List Award semi-finalists.  Ironically by the end of the day he also was honored by getting some autographs from Dean himself and several selfies.  Way to go, Jackson!

KING TeC had a great tournament.  Their robot ran really well and they ended up in 6th place out of 60 robots in the qualifying rounds.  Unfortunately, they didn't fare as well in the elimination rounds and lost their match 2 games to 1.  They did end up winning the Entrepreneur's award for presenting an incredible business plan that has helped support phenomenal growth of the program in Prior Lake over the past several years.  What a great group of kids!

The parents are pretty cool also.  We spent the rest of the night high fiving each other at Applebees.

We had the chance to thank some of our awesome coaches, mentors, and volunteers throughout the night.  Our year seems to have ended quicker than we would have liked, but I think the team is well positioned to inspire young minds for many, many years going forward!